SPECIES

Moluccan Scops-Owl Otus magicus Scientific name definitions

Guy M. Kirwan, Denver W. Holt, Josep del Hoyo, Nigel Collar, Regan Berkley, Caroline Deppe, Paula L. Enríquez, Julie L. Petersen, José Luis Rangel Salazar, Kelley P. Segars, and Kristin L. Wood
Version: 2.0 — Published March 5, 2022

Systematics

Systematics History

Traditionally the Moluccan Scops-Owl has been treated as a single species (e.g., 7, 8, 9, 10, 11), as in this species account; however, del Hoyo and Collar (12) elevated Otus m. tempestatis to species rank on account of its very distinctive vocalizations, a decision subsequently followed by one regional field guide (4, 13). Sometimes considered conspecific with the Sulawesi Scops-Owl (Otus manadensis) (7), or variously to include the Enggano Scops-Owl (Otus enganensis), the geographically far removed Seychelles Scops-Owl (Otus insularis), and the Biak Scops-Owl (Otus beccarii) as subspecies (5, 8), but all of these have been shown to be morphologically and/or vocally distinct. Moreover, the Flores Scops-Owl (Otus alfredi) was recently treated as a rufous morph of the subspecies albiventris of the present Moluccan Scops-Owl species, but it was shown via a morphological study to be a distinct and separate species (14).

The placement of Otus manadensis kalidupae has been long debated. Although it was formerly considered a subspecies of Otus magicus (e.g., 8), recent treatments, including here, have placed kalidupae as a subspecies of the Sulawesi Scops-Owl given geographic proximity to the latter or, in one monograph (2), even as a separate species. Evaluation of its true affinity has long been hampered by its confusing morphology and the lack of knowledge of its song. However, recently evaluated recordings found its vocalizations to be best aligned with Otus manadensis (15).

Subspecies


EBIRD GROUP (POLYTYPIC)

Moluccan Scops-Owl (Moluccan) Otus magicus [magicus Group]


SUBSPECIES

Otus magicus morotensis Scientific name definitions

Systematics History

Scops morotensis Sharpe, 1875, Catalogue of Birds of the British Museum, volume 2, p. 75, pl. 7, fig. 1.—Morotai, Moluccas.

Three syntypes, all collected by Alfred Russel Wallace in 1861, are held at the Natural History Museum, Tring, of which one adult is NHMUK 1873.5.12.1641 (16).

This taxon was subsumed within leucopsilus by White and Bruce (8), but the reasons for such treatment were not clearly elucidated.

Distribution

Endemic to the islands of Morotai and Ternate in the North Moluccas (8).

Identification Summary

Less spotted on the upperparts than the nominate subspecies and darker overall. Van Bemmel (17) wondered whether any rufous morph occurred on Ternate, but White and Bruce (8) confirmed presence thereon. Size (sample sizes unstated): wing length 167–188 mm; tail length 82–96 mm (2), or wing 172–188 mm (Ternate, n = 4) and 177 mm (Morotai, n = 1) (8).


SUBSPECIES

Otus magicus leucospilus Scientific name definitions

Systematics History

Ephialtes leucospila G. R. Gray, 1860, Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1860:344.—Batjan [=Bacan].

One syntype is an adult male, collected by Alfred Russel Wallace, and held at the Natural History Museum, Tring (NHMUK 1873.5.12.1657) (16).

Distribution

Confined to the islands of Halmahera, Kasiruta, and Bacan, in the North Moluccas (8).

Identification Summary

Similar to the geographically proximate subspecies morotensis but smaller (wing length 160–186 mm, tail 78–93 mm; sample sizes unstated) and with a distinctly paler face (2). Also: wing on Halmahera 163‒174 mm (n = 7); on Bacan 170‒175 mm (n = 3) (8).


SUBSPECIES

Otus magicus obira Scientific name definitions

Systematics History

Otus magicus obira Jany 1955, Journal of Ornithology 96:106.—Obi. (6)

The holotype, an adult male collected on 1 November 1953 by G. A. L. de Haan, is held at the Museum Zoologicum Bogoriense, Cibinong, Java (MZB 21.496).

Distribution

Confined to Obi, also in the North Moluccas (8).

Identification Summary

Considered to be poorly differentiated (although it was accepted by White and Bruce 8, who rejected several other taxa that are generally acknowledged as valid), but smaller than subspecies leucospilus (wing 168–174 mm, tail 78–93 mm; sample sizes unstated) (2); White and Bruce (8) gave wing length as 168‒172 mm (n = 5).


SUBSPECIES

Otus magicus magicus Scientific name definitions

Systematics History

Strix magica S. Müller, 1841, Verhandelingen over de Natuurlijke geschiedenis der Nederlandsche overzeesche bezittingen, door leden der Natuurkundige commissie in Indië en andere Schrijvers, volume 4, p. 110.—Amboina [= Ambon].

Two syntypes, both collected in April 1828 by S. Müller, are held at the Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden: an adult female (RMNH 88343) and an adult male (RMNH 88344) (18).

Distribution

Endemic to the islands of Ambon and Seram, in the Central Moluccas (8, 19).

Identification Summary

Described under Plumages.


SUBSPECIES

Otus magicus bouruensis Scientific name definitions

Systematics History

Scops bouruensis Sharpe, 1875, Catalogue of Birds of the British Museum, volume 2, p. 73, pl. 7, fig. 2.—Buru.

The holotype is an adult male, collected by Alfred Russel Wallace in 1861, and held at the Natural History Museum, Tring (NHMUK 1873.5.12.1639) (16).

This taxon was subsumed within nominate magicus by White and Bruce (8), but the reasons for such treatment were not clearly elucidated.

Distribution

Endemic to Buru, in the Central Moluccas (8).

Identification Summary

Compared to O. m. magicus, this taxon has more heavily and extensively tarsi, and a more striped (less spotted) pattern on the underparts. Often has an indistinct, somewhat mottled pale nuchal collar. Size: wing length 172–192 mm (n = 13) (8); tail length 87–95 mm (sample size unstated) (2).


SUBSPECIES

Otus magicus albiventris Scientific name definitions

Systematics History

Scops albiventris Sharpe, 1875, Catalogue of Birds of the British Museum, volume 2, p. 78, pl. 8, fig.1.—Flores.

The holotype is an adult male, collected by Alfred Russel Wallace in 1862, and held at the Natural History Museum, Tring (NHMUK 1873.5.12.1659) (16).

Distribution

Quite widespread in the western and central Lesser Sundas (Nusa Tengarra), on Sumbawa, Komodo, Flores, and Lembata (8, 20, 3).

Identification Summary

With the exception of O. m. tempestatis, this is the smallest taxon: wing length 153–166 mm, tail length 71–84 mm (sample sizes unstated) (2). Has underpart markings typically bolder than in tempestatis. The ear-tufts are relatively long and dark, spotted with some rufous; no rufous morph is known although there is some variability in the warmth of the ground color. Tarsus entirely feathered (2).


EBIRD GROUP (MONOTYPIC)

Moluccan Scops-Owl (Wetar) Otus magicus tempestatis Scientific name definitions

Systematics History

Pisorhina manadensis tempestatis E. Hartert, 1904, Novitates Zoologicae 11:190.—Wetar. (1)

The holotype, a male collected on 15 October 1902 by Heinrich Kühn is held at the American Museum of Natural History, New York (AMNH 629953) (21).

Distribution

Endemic to the island of Wetar, in the east-central Lesser Sundas (8).

Identification Summary

Differs from its geographically closest neighbor (O. m. albiventris) chiefly in its differently structured song (a short-spaced series of 4–6 short barking calls, versus well-spaced barking calls) that is also higher pitched (2, 12). The tail is slightly longer, with weaker dark markings on the upperparts, a notably more obviously barred tail, shorter ear-tufts, and a higher incidence of rufous morph individuals. The belly is also more patterned (rather than largely white) (2, 12). White and Bruce (8) noted that in this polymorphic taxon the rufous morph is reasonably prevalent (ca. 50% in one sample of 13 specimens) (1), whilst the brown morph is much like Sulawesi Scops-Owl in plumage, but has finer, less bold, blackish dorsal markings, and lacks the white below that characterizes subspecies albiventris of the present species. Size (sample sizes unstated): wing length 150–171 mm, tail 70–75 mm (2).

Related Species

The Moluccan Scops-Owl is probably closely related to the Mantanani Scops-Owl (Otus mantananensis), with these two species being closely allied to the Sulawesi Scops-Owl species group. However, this complex has not been subject to a detailed molecular study.

Fossil History

Nothing known.

Recommended Citation

Kirwan, G. M., D. W. Holt, J. del Hoyo, N. Collar, R. Berkley, C. Deppe, P. L. Enríquez, J. L. Petersen, J. L. Rangel Salazar, K. P. Segars, and K. L. Wood (2022). Moluccan Scops-Owl (Otus magicus), version 2.0. In Birds of the World (B. K. Keeney and P. N. Maleko, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.mosowl1.02